Aboriginal people along the Australian coast have a long association with whales. Rock engravings and contemporary stories show the strong relationship between local Aboriginal people, whales and The Dreaming. Some of these rock engravings and paintings are estimated to be over 1000 years old.
Whales in Aboriginal Australia
The whale is an important totem for numerous Aboriginal groups. A totem is an object or thing in nature that is adopted as a family or clan emblem. Different clans are assigned different totems and in some cases individuals are given personal totems at birth. The whale is the totem of the Darkinjung people of the Central Coast of NSW.
Aboriginal people considered stranded whales an important economic resource. They used the fat to varnish their spears, boomerangs and tools. They also used whale bones to manufacture utensils, weapons and for other uses such as shelter.
Whales and early settlement
Early settlers recognised the importance of whales to the economy and quickly established shore-based whaling stations on the northern side of Sydney Harbour and on the far south coast of NSW. Local Aboriginal people played a key role in whaling from stations around Eden, including Boyds Tower and Davidson Whaling Station, which is now managed by the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service as historic sites.